THERE’S a shortage of health visitors in Kirklees.
Current vacancies, plus general winter sickness, have brought pressures, with some routine baby clinics being temporarily closed, sometimes at short notice.
A national campaign is underway to remedy the situation locally. If it works, Kirklees Community Healthcare Services (KCHCS), which runs the health visitor team under the aegis of NHS Kirklees Primary Care Trust, has plans to expand the service.
In the meantime the shortage has meant restrictions, and Robert Flack, KCHCS director, is worried.
“Restricting the service in this way is very much a last resort,” he said.
“If we hadn’t taken this step of concentrating on the essential services then the teams would have been so stretched that there would be a danger that none of the work would have been completed safely.
“I want to reassure families that we will resume the full health visiting service as soon as we are able to do so.
“We have a national recruitment campaign under way and we are doing our utmost to attract health visitors to the area.
“Our health visitors are extremely dedicated and are doing a fantastic job. We have exciting plans to expand the service when our new recruits are in post.”
Thousands of Kirklees people live much of their lives without coming into contact with a health visitor, and might therefore be unclear about their crucial role in the infrastructure of community health.
Strangely, Kirklees’ complement of health visitors is 68.65. It is 7.5 full time positions short.
They are qualified registered nurses with midwifery, paediatric, psychiatric or community health specialisms which include child health, health promotion and education.
The role involves promoting health in the whole community. They are particularly involved with families who have children under five and with the elderly.
In fact, every family with children under five should have a named health visitor.
Because visitors are attached to GP practices, they also deal with all patients registered with that practice.
Most health visitors work alongside midwives preparing parents for the birth of their baby by their involvement in pre-birth classes.
Any parent who is concerned about the health of their child can ring the contact telephone number Bin their Red Book. Home visits can be arranged if necessary.
A baby clinic information line has been set up to help parents avoid unnecessary journeys.
The number to call between 9.30am and 4.30pm for information about baby clinic openings is 01484 466172 or 01484 46621 and is operated by the NHS Kirklees Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS).